BOYS BASKETBALL: Irish nearly lose double-digit lead, hold off St. Francis de Sales
KANKAKEE — All wins might not be created equally, but they do count the same, and that’s all that mattered to Bishop McNamara on Saturday.
The Irish shot just 36 percent (19 of 53) and had 18 turnovers but were able to fend off a late St. Francis de Sales rally to hold on to a 54-50 nonconference home victory.
The win improved the Irish to 12-6 on the season, and the Pioneers fell to 0-15.
“It says a lot about our toughness,” Irish guard Dominik Koziol said of his team’s ability to hold on. “Maybe last year or earlier this year, we would have let that get to us, and we could have let this game get away from us.”
Payton Gerberding got the Irish going early, scoring seven of the first nine points of the game for McNamara, which scored the game’s first seven points. The senior led the Irish with 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including an impressive 5-of-9 clip from the 3-point line.
“He’s getting those looks because we’re sharing the basketball,” Irish coach Adrian Provost said. “Our other four kids on the floor did a good job of getting him some open looks.
“But we were also getting some good looks from inside and didn’t make those.”
Those inside looks Provost spoke of were routine shots within 10 feet the Irish just couldn’t get to fall, as they shot just 11 of 32 from inside the 3-point line.
Provost said some close misses were to be expected against a stingy Pioneers defense, but the Irish were happy to take the win.
“They kind of junk up the game defensively, and you have to prevent yourself from letting it [affect] you, which is hard to do,” Provost said. “If we made half of our shots at the rim, which is the least we should do, it’s a whole different game.
“The positive is that it’s a win, but after that, the positives are kind of hard to find.”
The Pioneers made their first legitimate challenge late in the third quarter, when they cut their deficit to within five points for the first time since the opening two minutes of the game.
But Koziol hit a pair of 3-pointers, his only two field goals of the game to put the Irish ahead by double-digits once more heading to the fourth quarter.
“He got some looks, finally,” Provost said of his point guard. “We’ve been talking about how we can get him some more looks, and he got them today.
“When he gets four or five looks from [the 3-point line], he’s going to make them, and those will be big points for us.”
Koziol, who finished with seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists, said he was doing his job as a senior to lift the Irish when they needed it.
“Every day, coach just looks for me and the other seniors to lead the team, give 100 percent and lead the offense” Koziol said. “He looks to me to be able to help get things going and keep our guys in check.”
Gerberding added five rebounds, two assists, three steals and a block to his team-high 22 points. Broghan O’Connor had eight points, five rebounds, four steals and a block. C.J. Link and Owen Jackson each chipped in seven points.
The Irish are home Tuesday with a Metro Suburban Conference matchup against Chicago Christian.